Date: 31 July 2021
This was as good an opener to the new season as any Cherries’ fan could wish for. It’s just a shame so few were there to witness it.
For me, this was my first live match for seventeen months – thanks to a certain pandemic. I was therefore really looking forward to it, but the afternoon didn’t start well. I got caught in a torrential downpour – that didn’t look as though it would ever stop – whilst I was by the entrance to Boscombe Pier. (And there would be another heavy shower during the first half.) The attendance at the game was very poor, including no-one at all whom I knew, and the few home fans seemed unwilling to make much noise. The starting eleven looked unfamiliar, with a mix of new signings and promotions from the youth team. It was unclear to me whether this was a ‘cup eleven’, with key players intentionally rested, or whether the missing players were en route to other clubs. (I refer to Steve Cook, Lerma, Danjuma and Surridge, among others, none of whom even made the bench.) Then the Bournemouth players stood like statues declining to ‘take the knee’, which I found bitterly disappointing. And once the game started MK Dons dominated the first half hour of play and had all the best chances.
But during this half hour I took the opportunity to look at some of our players. There was some apparently risky ‘playing from the back’ on Travers’ part, but he got away with it each time and also made some great saves, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ibsen Rossi looked impressive at centre back (and he’s tall!), while his accomplice Kelly was captain (for the day or permanent, who can tell?). Kilkenny looked impressive from the start, sitting in front of the back four, and would later on be awarded the sponsors’ ‘man of the match’. But by far our best player in these early stages was Anthony; every Bournemouth attack came through him and his passing was immaculate.
Brooks missed a sitter on 30 minutes but made up for it by scoring five minutes later. This was somewhat against the run of play though, with MK (cheered on by their very vocal fans) still dominating. The tide turned when an injury to Stacey resulted in Smith moving to right back. For the rest of the game Smith and Brooks formed a brilliant partnership on the right flank, that would eventually lead to a number of further goals. But the half time score was 1-0.
Stacey’s departure had resulted in Zemura’s arrival at left back, and he’d intercepted an MK Dons’ shot within seconds of coming on. With our defence secure we were able to get forward more and more as we grew into the game. An overlapping routine between Brooks and Smith within two minutes of the restart resulted in the former passing to the latter, and Smith then crossing to Solanke who couldn’t miss. Our next goal came in the 72nd minute when Billing capitalised on an MK Dons defensive error. Perhaps not the best way to score, but they all count! Ten minutes from time Saydee, brought on for his professional debut in place of Solanke once our victory seemed secure, scored our fourth goal; and not long after that he turned provider as he passed to Brooks who scored his own second of the match.
Even at 5-0 our crowd was disappointingly quiet, while the MK fans never stopped singing. By now it was ‘gallows humour’ on their part, ‘pretending’ they’d scored a goal and singing accordingly! But I was more interested in the home team. Yes we were up against lower league opposition; and yes we had home ‘advantage’ (probably irrelevant given that all the singing came from the away end); but 5-0 is still a great start to the campaign and – if this is indeed Parker’s preferred team – the prospects for this season look bright.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Stacey, Ibsen Rossi, Kelly, Smith;
Brooks, Marcondes, Billing, Anthony;
Smith, Ibsen Rossi, Kelly, Zemura;
Brooks, Stanislas, Billing, Anthony;